The Safety Myth

Natural Birth Stories have blown my head off this week. Women who have birthed breech babies naturally, women who have had second babies with no repeat bleeding whatsoever. Women who have free birthed at home. Women who have followed their instincts and done it their way. Women who have been incredibly brave. Who have held to their truth.

I cannot tell you their names or their stories, but I can tell you my jaw is agog. What I am registering is that mothers, fathers, doulas and even grandmothers all over the world are birthing their truth.

Heroes and Sheroes everywhere. Perhaps you are one of them?

Fathers who have held the space. Fathers, who have protected their newborns. Fathers, present bedside for days. Fathers who are quietely questioning the rush to interfere with the birth of their child. Fathers, who have protected their partners from fear based inductions. Fathers, strong for their women and children. Fathers, true heroes.

Doulas fierce for the mother. Doulas standing stong. I heard the young doctor dropped her scissors when she saw the Doula standing in front of her.

Grandmothers who got herbs and flower remedies. Grandmothers who remembered. Grandmothers who worked through their own birth stories, so as not to pass down the fears. Grandmothers who ensured there would be no harmful medicalization committed on their grandchildren. Grandmothers who held the space. Grandmothers who protected their daughters. Grandmothers who said no. Grandmothers, modern Birth Keepers in action.

Mothers who stayed at home, who couldn’t get in the car and birthed at home happy as. Mothers who felt the incredible fear of care providers and birthed breech (bum first) babies anyway. Mothers who were not believed and birthed full power.

What do all these Birth Keepers have in common?

They said yes to their instincts and no to the protocols.

They said yes to their inner wisdom and no to the artificial birth companions.

They said yes to their body wisdom and no to the forcefield of fear coming at them.

They said yes to their body.

They said yes to life.

They said yes to their baby.

They have spoken.

They have not been moved.

They have not been shaken.

They have not been sent away.

They have not been dismissed.

There is something big happening at this time on the planet. Can you feel it? Women, men and grandmothers are empowering themselves in the birthing rooms. There is a theme emerging. Women are listening to their inner knowing, intuition and body wisdom BIG time.

Fathers are calmly speaking. Grandmothers are gently holding space. Doulas are providing much of the lost art of midwifery.

Women have lost far too much blood in the name of safety.

There have been too many cuts and too many wounds.

Too many violations in the name of safety.

Women have been sold the safety myth but are no longer buying it.

It is safer if we give you a shot of syntocinon to deliver your placenta. It is safer if you birth in the hospital. It is safer if we do a caesarean. It is safer if you get out of the bath. It is safer if you get on the bed. It is safer if we screw a wire into your babies scalp to get a good trace. It is safer if we break your waters.

Bulldust.

We are birthing our truth.

Shedding my Skin

I can’t go back. I am shedding a hard won, yet hardly worn skin.

My career as a Midwife feels short lived. Four months into my job my soul called me to resign.

I wanted to drop out of midwifery school in second year. Not because of Birth. Not because of Women. Not because of the horrors I witnessed. No. Because my soul was tired. I felt midwifery was slowly killing something off inside me, gradually cutting back the branches of an ancient tree. At the end I felt like Bonsai. Trimmed and clipped neatly in a tiny dish with nowhere to stretch out and no way of reaching down to the soft muddy earth beneath me.

For that I would have to leave the building and take my heavy shoes off.

So glad I did.

Thankfully a tree knows how to regenerate, she is designed to be and grow, to flourish and reach out no matter what. Just as grass rises through cracks in the pavement, something in me is rising through a harsh overlay. The same Laws of Nature that govern the tides and the seasons are alive in me leading me to regenerate in softer greener pastures.

For years I had to compress most of myself to fit in so I could get boxes ticked by supervisors. Meanwhile my intuition told me everything. It never failed me. Something else led me in those birthing rooms, something spoke loud and clear, all the way through me. “Don’t touch that cord” only moments before another midwife tugged on the cord and it snapped. “She’s going to birth right now” and sure enough she did.

The simple act of speaking the truth to women protected many from the instruments or worse still, the surgeons knife. “Mary Jane it’s like this….either you birth this baby yourself, which you are perfectly capable of doing in the next few hours, or someone you have never met is going to march in here and pull it out of you”.

Women thanked me afterwards.

It never failed me. I was led, directed and shown at every birth what was going to unfold, often before it happened. I felt this presence guiding me. As well as this I had to follow orders, monitor machines and carry out ridiculous procedures all against this inner wisdom that both guided and protected me and the birthing woman, birth after birth.

I have stepped away from the birthing room to pause and reflect. I am poised for my next steps, not knowing where they will lead. I trust that something inside my body is leading me on.

Ever spent a fortune on a beautiful dress only to realize you can’t wear it? Perhaps the deep blue caught your eye and the soft velvet felt SO right under your fingers at the time. Same goes for the shoes, you know the ones. Remember the dress you spent a summer paying off only to discover it just doesn’t feel right as the leaves turned?

Think how ridiculous a swan would look in a policemans uniform with badges and a gun.

Obviously a poor fit. Far too much navy, way too dark, too many belts, and the gun holder hung heavy and dug into my feathers.

Letting go of a job is scary. My job paid the rent, it fed my family, but it hurt my soul. I had to stop. The thought of having to vaccinate another new born baby makes my tongue go blue and my stomach turn. I’ve held down enough small pink thighs. I’ve heard enough shrill cries.

I can no longer be a part of it.

I’ve seen cruelty towards women in hospitals. Most of the violence I have witnessed (and this pains me the most to write) has been at the hands of other women. Women doctors and even women midwives. Depending on who is present, it can be a peaceful, wondrous, miraculous birth or it can feel more like a murder scene (yep a blood bath) inside those rooms.

I can’t fully talk about it yet. Recently, on a flight across the Tasman I watched a great documentary about the making of GreenPeace called “How to Change the World”. It struck me that over the last twenty years we have actually saved the whales and the seals but we haven’t saved the humans.  As I watched I thought to myself…. what about women and babies? Who is going to save them?

In my nine years attending births as a Doula and Midwife I saw obstetric violence twice at the hands of a man, and far more often at the hands of women. The female acts are far more concerning and chilling to me, in the same way that the movie Fatal Attraction is more harrowing than other scary films. Often these doctors are taught this rough handed approach by their superiors and they just run with it. Many of today’s obstetricians are young women in their late twenties. I want to meet with them in hoardes. I want to speak at medical schools and midwifery schools about what no-one is talking about in these teaching universities.

I want to speak about the Sacred Feminine, the Laws of Nature. She’s been around a lot longer than medicine and things have gotten way out of hand. Are hospitals safe places for birthing women? Between 2000 and 2013 the number of women that died in childbirth nearly doubled in the USA and Canada. (World Health Organization, 2013) It was safer to have a baby in the eighties and nineties. I want all to know that if we respect the body and souls of women, life will flourish and they will definitely still have a job to do.

It’s not what we do as Birthkeepers, but how we do it.

The best health professionals in Maternity are the gentle and kind ones. There is something about the presence of a caring Obstetrician or Midwife that has a very powerful effect on a birthing woman. When women truly feel safe, supported and respected they mostly birth well.

I have witnessed profound beauty and peace at births with these rare and often very experienced midwives and doctors. I bow to them. They are servants of peace.

Birth Keepers of skill and kindness are truly powerful warriors of light for the world. I pray that they multiply by the tens of thousands as I write this.

Perhaps you are one of them?

Generations of humans are thanking you in advance!

Incarnating souls will flock to your side!

I have journeyed long and deep into themes of abuse and anger in this life time. I know my inner killer. I have been a victim and a perpetrator too. I was on my way to becoming a martyr, but when I check in, none of these roles no longer fit.

I think women need their ferocity, especially if they dare step inside a hospital to have a baby. It’s like walking into a minefield. Too often women are prey inside those walls and they don’t actually begin to realize until it is way too late. Until they are captured and cannot escape.

This has to stop.

I have seen too many healthy women enter hospitals glowing and well only to emerge days later with a cut, a wound or a deep scar. And I’m not just talking about physical wounds. We know from the evidence that births stay with women for life. Women can tell me the exact words that midwives and doctors said to them decades ago.

There is too much injury. Enough.

I’ve seen too many lambs to the slaughter. I’ve seen too much iatrogenic harm. Harm caused by health professionals. Often this harm is written off ‘in the name of duty’, to keep women ‘safe’, ‘for their own good’. Sounds similar to what the Catholics came up with when they borrowed a few altar boys.

I have even been told that violence is the right of health professionals.

I disagree.

What happened to Firstly, Do no harm?

It’s cultural practice to conduct vaginal examinations four hourly, to stretch and sweep, to break womens waters, to cannulate them, to forcfully remove clots by massaging a womans fundus (womb/belly) after birth, to pull out a placenta after a shot of synto…. because the midwife wants ‘active management’ now. Then there’s cutting a baby’s cord at birth, even before it’s had a chance to stop pulsating, rubbing the baby with a rough towl and administering newborn vaccinations shortly after.

No more.

I can no longer be part of a system that has normalized violence towards women’s sacred rites of passage, towards womens bodies and towards new born babies.

I can no longer go to work and pretend it is okay.

It isn’t.

It has to stop.

I can no longer remain silent.

I’m flung off the wheel and landed on my paws. I’m seeing it all from another perspective and I am of service for those who are ready to unpack their Births, their miscarriages, and yes their abortions too. Male and Female. Yes dear Mammas and Pappas, we are actually all in this together. I reckon some of you might need to sit down and talk about it, cry about it, dance the bejeezus shock out of you, write, paint and sing out loud about it.

The worst part is how quickly the carnage becomes normalized by women themselves, be they medical staff, midwives or labouring women. What on earth has happened to us women?

When did we decide as a collective that obstetric violence is ‘just the way it is’?

Time to wake up and roar I reckon.

Attending another caesarean section is out of the question for now.

Watching another healthy young woman have a forceps delivery because she can’t stand upright due to her epidural is over.

The thought of checking another placenta before breakfast makes me want to vomit.

I’m over quickly wrapping up all the evidence of Birth and throwing it in the bin so that disinfectant can swiftly be applied to every surface removing every possible mark or trace that birth has ever happened in the room.

No more wiping blood off the floor. No more blood on my hands.

I miss my colleagues, I miss the women, the dads, I miss the babies too, yes.

I won’t miss the bullying.

I won’t miss the cruelty.

I won’t miss the gossip.

I won’t miss the fear based culture.

No.

I will no longer have to do things to women and babies I don’t agree with.

I can restore some personal integrity.

I trust that I will find my way and feed my family.

It’s hard to put down what feeds me and at the same time leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Tears are falling and I feel to acknowledge to myself how hard I have worked.

How high I have jumped.

All the moves I did to gain my ticket, how hard I had to work for my registration.

All the years of study, nights of on call and beautiful astounding women, babies and births.

How many boxes I ticked to please others.

All of this white paper, white walls and white coats began to harden and dry up a sweet soft pasture inside me. Fortunately none of this has broken me or my sense of trust in Nature’s Wise Ways of Birth and Death.

Actually I reckon the laws of Nature inside me have become stronger.

I took it as far as I could. I’ve traded in my uniform for a comfy skirt my friend Jillian made and a singlet. I’m ready for my next step. My body has spoken and I have surrendered to her way. I trust she knows. She wants soft grass and sunlight not operating theatres. She wants a place where women can speak freely and no one is tied to a monitor.

For a few years I had to squash myself into a small shape. I had to sit in my box in my frontal cortex. Clinical reasoning wins too way too many brownie points.

Who cares about women’s body wisdom and intuition?

Me.

I do.

Ever skipped along a new path in wonder only to realize you can’t go back to where you came from?

When I think of working in a hospital my soul feels tired. I remember my friend Keshava when his soul was tired. I met him when he was 46 and he died aged 53 or 54 I can’t remember now. He was so tired of pushing himself to be what his mother wanted him to be. Irena was a powerful Jewish mother, she wanted a successful business man. He was more of a tropical reef fish, not a shark.

In his heart and soul he wanted to be an actor.

He had a deep solid presence and an even deeper voice to go with it.

Irena wouldn’t have a bar of it.

Yet he spent all of his energy trying to please his 90 something year old mother. He had a shop, a business to please her, yet behind the scenes he traded ecstasy and cocaine. He loved the thrill and the chase. In this private world he could be himself. A hero, a villain, a host of characters.

His inability to come clean with his secret and his mother kept him well hidden in the closet, even from me, his lover for many years. His secret killed him in the end.

I have a secret life too. Far from the drug world and far from the land of thermometers and stethoscopes.

Rich and alive.

All of my very own.

My inner life, my creative work doesn’t fit into a box or a uniform or a system. I tried, oh how I tried. I have tried to be what my family and culture wants, to fit myself in a variety of boxes, only to come all oozing out the sides. I chewed a hole through the side of the box and ran for the hills.

I’m a wild thing made of earth and fire. I am tides and breeze, winds and storms.

I have thunderbolt in my dance and mud between my toes. When I cry I am held by an ancient soft mother, a wild mother, a wise mother, an old mother and a very, very, very old grandmother.

I have learned that Nature always get her way. My role is to surrender to her, to trust her. Fighting her only causes pain.

This week there are owls all around me.

One on the middle of the road as I drove joyfully out of town to my new home.

One on the fence as I drive along my new driveway with my daughter.

Two on my clothes line under the crescent moon.

I am blessed.

I bleed.

I rage.

I rain.

I cry.

I melt.

I dissolve.

I transform and recycle from the inside out every month, just like the earth, just like the moon. Nature dances all through me. Nothing can stop it. No matter what the white paper guidelines say the Laws of Nature are running the show inside every single one of us, man or woman. Try messing with a king tide, an earthquake or a summer thunderstorm. Not a chance.

I am letting go of clinical, hospital midwifery and I am scared.

The uniforms and the badge have been washed and returned.

There is no security in the mystery except this.

I know and trust the long dark night.

Without a flicker of a doubt I know in every cell of my body that there will be head on view at dawn and a new life is being born through me.